TNP: PM: Let's keep 377A in shades of grey (Oct 25)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

PM: Let's keep 377A in shades of grey

by Low Ching Ling

ON one side of the fence, you have those who want Section 377A abolished.

Click to see larger image

On the other side stands the 'conservative majority' - people who want the status quo to remain.

Both sides will not budge.

What should the Government do?

Live and let live. Don't force the issue. Better to keep the law grey.

That is the view of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who wrapped up the two-day Parliament debate on Section 377A yesterday.

Let's say the Government scraps Section 377A. What next? What if gay activists push for more issues such as same-sex marriages and equal rights as straight people?

'The majority of Singaporeans will strenuously oppose these follow-up moves by the gay campaigners,' PM Lee pointed out.

'And many who are not anti-gay will be against this agenda...

'It's better to accept the legal untidiness and ambiguity. It works, don't disturb it.'

Mr Stuart Koe, CEO of Asian Internet portal for gays, had said he wanted the Government to remove the ambiguity of Section 377A.

PM Lee said: 'He said the current situation is like having a 'gun put to your head and not pulling the trigger. Either put the gun down, or pull the trigger'.'


But forcing the issue will divide our society, PM Lee argued.

'The more gay activists push this agenda, the stronger will be the push-back from conservative forces in our society...

And the result will be counter-productive because it's going to lead to less space for the gay community in Singapore. So it's better to let the situation evolve gradually.'

Why did the Government decide to keep Section 377A?

PM Lee explained: 'Singapore is basically a conservative society. The family is the basic building block of this society...

And by family in Singapore, we mean one man, one woman marrying, having children and bringing up children within that framework of a stable family unit.

'I think the vast majority of Singaporeans want to keep it this way... and so does the Government.'

Yes, we have to accept homosexuals as part of our society, PM Lee said, but they should not set the tone for Singapore society or be considered a minority like Malays and Indians.

'This is the way Singapore society is today, this is the way the majority of Singaporeans want it to be.

So we should strive to maintain a balance, to uphold a stable society with traditional heterosexual family values but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and to contribute to the society.'

And the gays already have a lot of space in Singapore, PM Lee noted.

They work in all sectors of the economy, including the civil service. They hold public discussions and publish websites. There are films and plays with gay themes, and gay bars and clubs.

PM Lee said: 'They exist, we know where they are. Everybody knows where they are. They don't have to go underground,' PMLee said.

'We don't harass gays. The Government does not act as moral policeman. And we don't proactively enforce 377A on them.'

Live and let live, PM Lee said.

'(The gays) live their lives. That's their personal life, it's their space. But the tone of the overall society... remains conventional, it remains straight and we want it to remain so.'

Even in the more liberal West, PM Lee pointed out, homosexuality remains a contentious issue.

'They decriminalised homosexual acts decades ago... and they have gone a long way towards accepting gays in society.

'But still, the issue is bitterly disputed.

'So in America, there are fierce debates over gay rights and same-sex marriages.

'And the conservatives in America are pushing back.'